The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Human and environmental risks

Chemicals may threaten human health and the environment – acute and chronic health effects, water and soil contamination or damage to biodiversity are all possible outcomes. These outcomes are well studied although there remain some gaps in the understanding of long-term toxicity of combined exposure to mixtures of chemicals. The health and environmental impacts of widespread illegal chemical use and noncompliance with regulations, however, receive less attention. The grassroots reports submitted within the scope of this assessment suggest that users do not always associate illegal pesticides or mercury with health risks. Vulnerable groups such as undocumented labourers working in illicit or formal activities are usually more exposed to chemicals because they have fewer protections. The International Labour Organization (2015) estimates the number of migrant workers in the agriculture sector at about 16.7 million; very little is known about their working and living conditions (Martin 2016), or about their exposure to illegal chemicals. Farmworker Justice, an American non-governmental organization, identifies and advocates for undocumented farmworkers who suffer frompesticidepoisoning (Farmworker Justice2013). Arecent The use of illegal chemicals has different adverse effects on population groups. It is based on the exposure levels, chemical composition, physical parameters and/or biological conditions. In the various cases gender mainstreaming will require specific considerations for action. Both men and women are exposed to chemicals. Each uptake activity can show a specific configuration influenced by economic and social factors. The exposure can exacerbate the vulnerability of specific groups. According to Farmworker Justice, the majority of immigrant farmworkers in America are male from vulnerable social groups, with only about 20 per cent of women and about 12 per cent of adolescents working there. The persistence of chemicals in human body however can differ for men and women and also influence the reproduction functions. The Human Milk monitoring survey conducted globally indicates places where banned chemicals are still being used (Gabizon and Ismawati 2017). In Nigeria, for instance, despite the interdictions of POPs including DDT and lindane they continue to be used illegally. The monitoring programme has shown particularly high levels of DDT in human milk. Women and children remain highly exposed to these chemicals. Gender and chemicals

study explores the protections for undocumented farmworkers with pesticide poisoning from legal and illegal uses of pesticides in California, and advocates for federal protection fromdeportation for these workers as part of an effort to improve reporting on the incidence of such poisonings (Lincoln 2018). Information about unintentional chemical poisoning exists, but does not convey the full picture. Reports suggest that the exposure of migrant workers to hazardous chemicals is common and that they are not reported (Lincoln 2018; PAN International 2017). A well-known case of pesticide poisoning in India in late 2017 illustrates the shocking consequences that can result from the application of unauthorized herbicides. Reports first appeared in October 2017 of a poisoning in the eastern part of the Indian State of Maharashtra: at least 50 people died and about 800 were hospitalized after the application of herbicides, all of which were unauthorized in India, on cotton fields. Another eight people died subsequently. This tragedy became known far beyond India, and in response to media reports the State government initiated an investigation that identified Monocrotophos – an extremely toxic organophosphate pesticide banned in many countries – as a source of the poisoning. Public interest litigation was filed before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court seeking aid for the affected families. After several hearings, the court directed the Government to pay US $5,800 to each of the affected 63 families (BBC 2017). Chemicals also enter countries illegally as part of a broad variety of consumer products. High concentrations of toxic heavy metals in toys are regularly reported in many countries (ESDO 2013; Ismali et al. 2017; Reuters 2018). Other examples of products containing illegal contaminants are skin- lightening creams and soaps. Although many countries ban or regulate the upper limit of mercury allowed in these products, most countries cannot effectively monitor compliance, and many consumers are able to purchase unsafe products such as skin-lightening creams and soaps in the marketplace or on the Internet (Zero Hg Working Group 2018). According to the World Health Organization (2011), the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lighteningproductsmay also cause skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depressionor psychosis and peripheral neuropathy. The Philippines Food and Drug Administration list of banned cosmetics featuring mercury above the allowable limit of 1 part per million has expanded from 50 to 71, after the illegal products were discovered over the period of January 2010 to November of 2013 (Food and Drug Administration Philippines 2017). Gap analysis

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Sta istical analysis

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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